What Is It Like Navigating Sexuality And Gender As A Teenager?

Institutions are supposed to be the hubs of learning and education. Yet, somewhere we’re lacking in introducing and educating teenagers on sexuality and gender identity in schools. Yes, we’ve been taught about human anatomy, reproductive organs, among other things in our NCERT textbooks. But is that enough?

Without the correct resources, an open and safe environment, and empathy it may not be possible for a teenager to properly navigate their true selves. I was someone who found her way around the concepts of sexuality and gender much, much later in my teenage years. But, that does not have to be the case today. It is absolutely possible to shift the tide on this topic, if only we extend enough trust and agency to our teenagers.

Photo by Katie Rainbow 🏳️‍🌈 on Unsplash

Who Am I And Why Is This Important To Me?

I’m a 20-year-old college student from Delhi who has attended a school that did not have a comprehensive sex education curriculum. I identify as a bisexual and have been experimenting with my pronouns recently. But, as liberal and accepting I am of my sexuality today, I was not this way in high school.

In my early teens, I was just beginning to grasp the fact that I am attracted to women as well as men. But, my school turned out to be a rigid and non-accommodating space for my sexuality. I was never provided with a safe space to explore my identity. On the contrary, it was very common for children to use queer identities as insults and jokes.

Due to the lack of awareness and resources, I had to resort to the internet for most of my knowledge on the queer community. And the media only troubled my mind further by presenting an overtly sexualized image of bisexuality to me. Imagine an already confused teenager reading media pieces that told her it was alright for her to be sexualized just because she liked both men and women. That teenager was me. The absence of an informed individual or a professional that I could speak to in a safe environment led me to believe a lot of incorrect notions about what my sexuality is supposed to look like.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

What I Wish Was Offered To Me In My Teenage Years

  • A safe space to express myself and open up about what it was that I was feeling.
  • Empathy and acceptance from the people around me.
  • Exposure to role models and people that were diverse and champions in the area of gender identity and sexuality.
  • Gender-neutral vocabulary in classrooms and friend circles.
  • The encouragement to unlearn the conditioning and question all societal constructs.

What Does The Current Scenario Look Like?

The situation in schools seems to have gotten better, albeit not nearly as rapid as we would wish for it to be. Multiple organisations and NGOs, including Pratisandhi, have become the torchbearers for sexual health and related awareness amongst the youth. It has become pivotal for us to open up to our adolescents and create safe spaces for them.

At Pratisandhi, we are constantly collating resources around Sex Ed that are accessible and accurate for the benefit of the youth. Teenagers, parents, and facilitators today have an abundance of resources and information like this and this. Needless to say, it is important to ensure that the resources one is referring to are reliable and updated.

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash


Sometimes, I really wish I had an informed facilitator school that I could reach out to while navigating the concepts of identity. It is so easy to feel like you don’t fit in when the larger narrative around you differs from your own. The daunting idea that there is a possibility you may not be accepted in your peer group because of how you stray from their preconceived notions of “normal.”

It is instrumental in these building years of a person to find the correct guidance from people in authority. Facilitators, teachers, and parents play a decisive role in whether or not a child feels comfortable in their own self. And while we may have a long journey to tread still, you and I can be the people that our younger selves needed.

Cover Illustration: Gurleen Kaur


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